COLUMN: Human conscousness, under construction -- Part Four

Charles Jeanes
By Charles Jeanes
June 5th, 2023

Doing Good, Becoming Better, Following Leaders

“I’ve lived my life at the exact half-way point between joy and rage, gratitude and dismay… I would think well of us if I’d never read a history book. Or read a newspaper. Or the comments sections of the Internet…

“Is the world more terrible than beautiful? More beautiful than terrible? How can I praise such a world? How can I be so ungrateful as to not?                                                       — Karen Joy Fowler (born 1950) in the Preface to Black Glass

Part Four

Read the previous three parts to more fully appreciate this final section. The Appendix is, as the other appendices were, a tangent to the main argument but,  I hope, interesting.


Summary of the argument

Karen Joy Fowler, whom I quote in the epigraph, is my contemporary. I fully empathize with her words there. I see light and I see darkness.

I’ve been trying to develop my understanding of how the human world becomes better or worse, and this four-part Arc has been my exploration of some apt explanations.

The thesis I have been trying to develop is, to lay out two alternatives for an understanding of how the human world improves for us, or deteriorates. My two options, the choices of means for our amelioration, are:

1) scientific materialism, or physicalist science, as the method of advance.

2) spiritual ascension, or evolving moral consciousness, as the path forward.

The materialist-scientific explanations offer brain structure, nature, nurture, culture and technology as the determinants of human consciousness. A religio-spiritual explanation of “ascension” is not impossible, as the Axial Age did indeed witness humans’ cultural evolution to more enlightened ethics and morality.

But we have the present to show that all our efforts at this kind of improving our essential human being — through either of these means I have probed in history — have led us to a polycrisis. In spite of well-intentioned plans, policies, philosophies, gods, revelations, revolutions — humanity is in some serious trouble.



My curiosity in this column has been directed at the question of why humans are not better than they are, or at least as I find them to be. I could have phrased the query as, why are humans not worse?

I would like to believe in the vision of improvement – by either scientific method or spiritual practice – to raise humans, to make the species more loving, kind, and compassionate to all members of species homo sapiens, to share in a minimal decent living. Peace, social justice, good health. For all.

I believe I’ve lived in a moment in my teens and twenties when such visions were widely-shared, particularly among the more-youthful. We blessed the dream with names like Flower Power, Love-and-Peace Revolution, and the Aquarian New Age. I believed both science and spirituality would assist us.

I desire that our stupendously-powerful scientific instruments, the material tools for extending our power over all of nature including “human nature”, be applied to the making of a more-humane human. The tools of A.I. and CRISPR are the mightiest and newest implements of our genius for changing matter with human technology: who can be trusted with it is a profound problem. From fire to the wheel and the sword, through agriculture to civilization and nuclear weapons, our inventions led us… here.

“Here” – as Fowler perceives – is wonderful/terrible.

I want the promise and revelation of a spiritual threshold moment, of our miraculous transformation to possession of ascended consciousness, to be true. I quote my own vision I’ve just described: “spiritual practice – to raise humans, to make the species more loving, kind, and compassionate to all members of the species homo sapiens, to share in a minimal decent living for all.”

An extended period of recorded history since 3,000 BCE (five thousand years of records of human culture) reveals a stellar array of religious and spiritual teachings, practices, institutions, leaderships. From prehistoric shamanism and unknown faiths, to the Gilgamesh epic through the Torah and Tanakh and Vedas to Tao Te Ching, Buddha, Gospels, to Confucius and the Koran, homo sapiens has not lacked imaginative power to labour on its own species-mind. And all of those revelations led us… to now.

Beautiful/horrible, Now.

One eye for optimism, one for pessimism

For me the change in humans one must observe, before embracing optimism about the future, is lacking.

For the reader with the appetite for more reading, I offer the insights of a philosopher who denies humans can make progress in a moral sense, and of a public intellectual who most certainly believes we can.

John N. Gray, the pessimist.



Charles Eisenstein, the optimist.


The power to transform

Without my ever trying to prove it, throughout the essay I have asserted that human consciousness is not immutable and set in stone, but alters and evolves. Time and experience changes our minds.

Tree consciousness, star consciousness, whale consciousness…  I cannot speak to. But humans change, and neuroplasticity, the scientific proof that brains change, tell us that the change involves our consciousness.

Tools change us, and that is where our species has the potential to ruin itself.

Consciousness is caught in a web it weaves. Our intelligence invents ever-better means to exert our control over matter, over the physical universe. As Joseph Pearce tells us, in writings I have cited in this essay, intelligence is not the same as consciousness and the former can be monstrously misguided.

Our instruments show us the cosmos: witness the images from Hubble and its improved version, Webb.   https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-vs-webb-on-the-shoulders-of-a-giant

Our instruments show us unimaginably small particles that compose reality.     https://home.cern/science/accelerators/large-hadron-collider

And tools provide artificial intelligence to make up what we lack in intelligence, in order to make matter serve us.


Culture, too, is a tool. Language is part of it, and the stories we tell, are also examples of our instruments as conscious beings, for manipulating the human situation, existing on earth. Mal-formed culture will make mal-formed humans.

During the writing of this essay, I’ve come to fear that it is our tools – and the culture they structure to immerse our consciousness – that doom us. We’re still evolved animals. Our species-limitation, the matter of our animal origin, is the answer to questions probing why we cannot stop the degenerating spiral of the human condition. Consciousness, even though it is layered over animal habit, stays limited. Intelligence is inadequate, even a curse upon our good intention, if animal limitation dilutes consciousness. In the section of the essay where I explored the ideas of Joseph Pearce, this defect of our lower [old-reptilian] mind steering the higher/later brain [neo-cortex and frontal lobes] was made explicit.

Consciousness is a delicate net laid upon the tool-inventing, culture-enchanted human brain. It tells us our dreadful mistakes; it doesn’t raise us above their repetition.

California Dreams of better times ahead

Californians invented something in 1967 called “the Summer of Love.’ I wish I’d been there. But I was only 15 at the time, and though some 15-year-olds would be mature enough to go there from Ontario, I was most assuredly not one of them.      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_of_Love

When extraterrestrials come to our planet in some unimaginably distant time and explore human history and the artifacts we leave behind after we are extinct – extinguished by our own errors or vanished into becoming something new (perhaps no longer residing on this planet earth) —  they will learn that humans had a fascination with Love. These E.T.s might know love themselves, or it might be a mystery to them.

In the year 7510
If God’s a coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He’ll look around Himself and say
Guess it’s time for the judgment day
In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been
Or tear it down, and start again. 

  Zager and Evans, Exordium and Terminus

It has been said love is all we need, it is the answer to all human desire and all requirements for life. I cannot pronounce a conclusion about that.

But this I know: somehow, love will of necessity be part of any understanding of the human being and its record. Whoever is doing the understanding…

Love, however, has an equal force for motivating and energizing the human being. It is Justice. We want fairness, and it is likely in our DNA to seek justice.

“Know justice, know peace. No justice, no peace.” I have always loved that summation. I believe humans desire justice as ardently as we need love.

[read this research on primates and their hard-wiring for justice.



The dream I described from my youth, was Love and Justice. The essay I have offered in my Arc published over a few months here is my attempt to answer my own questions about the fate of that dream and the probability for any other dream like that to ever be fulfilled.

The visions of a better future for human beings have never stopped being seen. I append some links to the Arc today, which epitomize such ideas in the USA now. I will tease the reader with a small sample here:

“Consciousness is evolving, becoming aware of itself as creation’s mentor.

… because the new ones [specific children] bear all the earmarks of an evolutionary shift in the human species, that fabled quantum leap said to be our destiny at this time as our galaxy completes a 25,920-year rotation around what is regarded as the universe’s Great Central Sun…to set free all that sullies the human heart and blinds the mind… “   — P. M. Atwater, Beyond Indigo Children


A Revolution-shaped hole

I was all for Revolution in the 1970’s. It never happened, though evolution in law and culture did indeed improve life for many women and people of colour. But the Revolution of equality and the end of capitalism never came close. So I have a Revolution-shaped hole in my spirit, in my heart.

But there are some very smart people who think the 1960’s were a bad time, quite at odds with my own idealization of those exciting years. For example:

The ‘60s were a temporary local reversal of the civilising process,” he [Pinker] said… “If you defy the norms of bourgeois propriety, you’re going to have a lot of macho violence, and in the 1960s it was the bourgeois vision of the nuclear family that we had a lot of contempt for.”

This is Stephen Pinker speaking, author of Better Angels of our Natures. Unlike me, he sees the ‘60’s and the anti-bourgeois, pro-revolution slant of the zeitgeist then, as negative phenomena. Where I saw light, he sees darkness.


Conclusions: prophecy makes us construct a reality

All individuals possess some sense of a future, for time is intrinsically a human sense, and humans need the future as an indispensable ingredient in our search for meaning. The future I personally projected in 1973 was not the one I am living in now, and that leads me into the thoughts I have presented in this essay.

Human cultures — very large collectives indeed and not only individuals like me — generally also possess a sense of what the future holds, and practice predicting what to expect.

Prediction has a miserable track record.

[here is a recent example     https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/happy-ten-years-since-the-end-of-the-world/]

Three thousand years ago, a people at the western edge of Asia articulated a vision of their future. To the Persians, the land was Yehuda, to the Romans, Judea, to the Hebrew-speaking Semites who lived there, Israel. And they believed that their God would send a messiah, an anointed one, to raise his covenanted people up to rule Gentiles and lead nations to the one true deity.

This prophecy was so potent it motivated Jewish revolutionary leaders to fight the invincible legions of the Roman Empire, not once but twice – in the war of 66 to 74 CE, and another of 132 to 135 – when would-be messiahs led the Israelites in doomed attempts to liberate the land from Rome. Rome obliterated Jerusalem and its temple, enslaving tens of thousands of Jews as retribution, prohibiting Jews on that site. Exile was the fate of Jews… until 1947 and the war which created the new independent state of Israel as a Jewish republic.

However, for some individuals both Jewish and Gentile, the Messiah – or the Christos [Anointed One] for the multitudes of people who spoke Greek — was Jesus of Nazareth. The faith in this man-as-god created “Christianity” over a period of a century or so. And from this intangible force, a faith of the mind, not an empire of armies [though those too would follow] came a world-shaping Revolution, the invention of the religion and its spread. Christendom, as Europe called itself, rose to planetary dominance.

From this historical development one can see that prophecy is never straightforward. But Christianity did become globally hegemonic when capitalist, militarist, scientific Europe conquered earth… and this hegemony of the West over the globe is a perverted realization of the messiah prophecy, no?

Outside the West, other people’s religious or spiritual prophesies are legion, and in 2023 one can see that exotic predictions [like the Mayan calendar notion of a new beginning in 2012] attract a large following.



Until a prophesy fails, it can generate mass activism. But maybe it did not fail?  Is a new age indeed unfolding, but not as the prophecy was understood it?

I say all that to make this point: the predictions of where humans are headed are never going to be equivalent to sure knowledge. Knowledge is what is known, and our future is never that.

But here is the paradox: prophecy is itself a force making history, making the structures we build around us and call known reality.

We can believe in a multitude of futures. Each vision is a ‘Story of the People’ in the terminology of Charles Eisenstein.




The doom-laden prophecies based on sound scientific evidence of what climate change is doing, do not lend themselves to any optimism. [here are two, based on physical science:  http://users.fred.net/tds/globalwarming.html

video:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9LI1Dv0DEg]


“Scientific” prophecy has no monopoly on the planet’s cultures. People have countless notions of their future. The ideas themselves are making us act certain ways. We realize ideas: bad ideas make bad real worlds in the future.


Reader, change your mind and you change the world; Eisenstein is as close to a correct formula as I have found. Eight billion changed minds = our hope.



Appendix Part Four


Some see humanity doing well: a sampling of optimists


Optimists have reasons for their perspective. I offer a sampling of prominent optimists’ views.

The optimism of the adherents of a New Age can appropriately called a religious perspective.

I have been reading about the movement that believes in improved human consciousness, led by American visionaries like Ken Wilber, the late William Irwin Thompson and the late Barbara Marx Hubbard. (In Part Two, I laid out hypotheses about human mind and consciousness as seen by a neuroscientist, the late Joseph Chilton Pearce.)

I know magical thinking when I see it: as I said in Part Three in the appendix, I do not see the magical New Age that certain futurists and public intellectuals declare is occurring now, to change human consciousness, providing salvation to our species.

Nevertheless, my pessimistic opinion is in no way a consensus view. Prophecies proliferate.   — Charles Jeanes


Across the threshold to a New Age: the “Quantum Leap” of Consciousness


“Generally speaking, the New Age movement possesses an optimistic view of human society, and looks to a dawning future new age when all persons can achieve personal spiritual self-development and evolution….The New Age movement privileges an individualistic worldview. …that one’s personal spiritual development depends solely on the self and its will and determination. Though many New Age practitioners believe in deities or spiritual beings, they generally look to such entities as teachers or guides rather than sources of grace. Instead, New Agers believe that individuals must master their own spiritual paths… [for] spiritual evolution toward a greater consciousness and awareness.”


One might begin here, to get right to the flavour of New Age as an historical phenomenon:



Of course, the historical slant has a strong appeal to me as an historian. But for a more cultural critique, look here:




The New Age begins: new children gifted to save the world






P. M. H. Atwater, author, spiritual researcher


“My goal with this book is to put the various claims, visions, prophecies, and ideas about what is happening to our children and our world into perspective. Throughout my research of child experiencers of near-death states, I have been observing children in general – especially those born since 1982. These new ones are unlike children of any previous generation. Yet to understand them, one must also have a better understanding of our times: the Mayan “Suns,” prophecies of apocalypse and tribulation, the root races, generational imprinting, social ages, the great shifting and the great ages, human evolution and what ahead of us. After a great deal of research, cross-checking my material, and times spent in deep prayer and meditation, the book came together.”


All this is happening as we approach “the end of time” according to the Aztec/Mayan Calendar, which measures time up to 2012. Then the “Long Count” ends. Many native peoples likewise are expecting an end to things; some are curtailing pregnancy. Atwater reaches back into the mists of ancient wisdom teachings, including the Kaballah, Theosophy, and the Hindu Vedas, to reassure us that time recycles rather than ends. Although we are in a portentous time, when the shift from Piscean to Aquarian Ages coincides with a full turn of the Great Cosmic Wheel, when the Long Count ends, the sun will rise the next morning and we will shift into an Ascension of the Fifth World, with it colorings, qualities, problems, challenges, and unique solutions. … Those interested in the New Age, the new challenges of parenting and educating, the increasing spiral of pressure so evident now, ecological crisis, shifting value systems, spirituality and intuition, or a true Big Picture, will each find sections that fascinate. It is likely that each will interpret what is read as a different blend of insight and fable, but no one will read it without being stirred to ponder what is to come and how our choices can influence the future.                                                                                     – a review of Atwater’s book.



Ken Wilber, author, philosopher, inventor of Integral-Spiral Dynamics:

“All religions, like all other disciplines, will be affected by this profound transformation. And unlike the earlier interpretations and approaches to this worldwide transformation… this is a much more nuanced view based on significant research and evidence… [T]he biggest one [transformation] of all is just ahead of us!”   — Wilber, The Religion of Tomorrow (2017) p. 40

“… ‘Integral Methodological Pluralism’ [drives] toward a genuine ‘theory of everything’ that helps to enrich and deepen every field… [W]e reveal the previously unseen possibilities for a better, more compassionate, and more sustainable future for all of us.”

From: https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/article/the-leading-edge-of-the-unknown-in-the-human-being-ken-wilber

 “On the other hand, engaging a spirituality that comes from the deepest states of Waking Up and the highest stages of Growing Up is to come from the very best and brightest at the leading edge of evolution itself, a revolutionary stance that, for the first time in history, just recently became available.  May we all take advantage of such an extraordinary occasion—remove spirituality once and for all from being an ethnocentric, jihad-inducing, racist and sexist, childhood fantasies of humanity, and allow it to fully shine in its best and brightest and most authentic forms, changing both humans and history in one of the most profound transformations yet to occur in evolution’s ongoing unfolding.”      – Ken Wilber

 “Ken’s integral model helps us to embrace and work with our pain and suffering, to spiritually wake up, to become more fully alive and creative, to participate in the evolution of consciousness…”

Richard Tarnas, cultural historian, philosopher, astrologer:


“… Richard Tarnas, Ph. D., makes the case for a caring and sentient universe… he reminds us that the stars do, in fact, light the way for humanity in its spiritual and psychological struggle with maturity. While many scientists and academics subscribe to a paradigm in which faith and reason are separate, Tarnas offers an alternate perspective.”

Quotes from Tarnas

“Modern civilization pays a high price for living in a universe that it believes is random and spiritually meaningless.”

“Instead of the modern division between the purposeful, meaning-seeking human consciousness and a random, meaningless universe, astrology points to a universe that is integrated at all levels…”

“We know from individual lives that there is nothing like a mortal crisis to profoundly reconfigure a person’s life. Out of such a crisis a radical shift of values tends to emerge. The whole moral structure of a person’s, or an entire society’s, way of being is transformed. It seems to me quite possible that we as a civilization and as a species may face some kind of crisis that will serve to catalyze this awakening

“A new view of nature and the universe as , as spiritually significant, would give [humans] a better ground for both moral responsibility and a sense of spiritual belonging.

“The question is, how severe will the crisis have to be for this awakening to take place?” From an interview with Richard Tarnas:

 (Tarnas died in 2016. He was an active member of the faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies.)

Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist


 “… we turn the birth into an enduring shift to a new culture and  … [We are] feeling the inner call to seize this rare opportunity and actively participate in this great planetary , … becoming what we would call an ‘Agent of Conscious Evolution.’ ”

 “We are teetering on the edge of environmental collapse and global disaster…  this intense and often emotional drama has one powerful solution: our conscious  as a species… The Agents of Conscious Evolution (ACE) movement grows enduring hubs for conscious evolution around the world, all building towards the systemic shifts ahead of us… [B]ecome an evolutionary mystic – make the inner shift from your head to your heart, from ego to essence… to co-create a world that works for everybody.”

David Korten, author, noetic philosopher


author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning, and other works

Korten was mentored by Willis Harman, president of the California Institute of Noetic Sciences:

“By the reckoning of our scientific stories, life is merely an accident, and there’s no reason for our existence in the first place… Survival by itself is devoid of meaning. …We need a reason to change… an image of God as a spirit that’s integral to all creation, an unfolding universe moving toward ever-greater complexity… We need to recognize that there is something much deeper going on, that intelligence is real and pervasive. …[Q]uantum physics says that matter is essentially an illusion, creating the illusion of material solidity and stability.

I like what physicist Sir James Jeans said: “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”

“As the baby boomers move into their elder years, I want them to recognize that they have a great responsibility not to go away, but to make use of their experience, financial independence, and discretionary time to advance the Great Turning. We need to move beyond the socialized consciousness and recognize that culture is a construct, not an absolute reality. Empire doesn’t want awakened elders out in public talking to people still living in the cultural trance.”

The Shift Network, Institute for Noetic Sciences, California: https://noetic.org/

“We call ourselves the Shift Network … a network of inspired hearts, awakened minds, and dedicated souls… We are deeply committed to supporting the shift toward a planet that is healthy, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous for all and are striving to make an impact on multiple fronts… We create transformative virtual events to help you live an extraordinary life…”




Stephen Pinker,scientist, author, prophet of Progress

Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) posits that violence in human societies has generally declined over time, and identifies six major trends and five historical forces of this decline, the most important being the humanitarian revolution brought by the Enlightenment and its associated cultivation of reason. Enlightenment Now (2018) further argues that the human condition has generally improved over recent history because of reason, science, and humanism. The nature and importance of reason is also discussed in his next book Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters (2021). In 2004, Pinker was named in Times“The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today”, and in the years 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2011 in Foreign Policylist of “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

 “Pinker has always searched for universals – the underlying structure shared by all languages, the behaviours practised by all cultures, the traits shared by all minds. In his telling, history, too, revealed basic lessons of human nature. Scoured of its particular economic and political conditions, it had been transformed into a kind of parable.”



Evolution of ascending human consciousness:  Dr. Clare Graves and Don Beck

 ‘Spiral Dynamics’ hypothesizes phases of consciousness in evolution, using colour codes for each period in the trajectory of human history, from prehistory to the future. “Progress is real.”




William Irwin Thompson, author, prophet of noetic consciousness

From ample but largely gloomy evidence of rapid social change — future shockecological disruptionpopulation explosionproliferation of information — Thompson draws a startling conclusion:

“We are the climacticgeneration of human cultural evolution.”

 Man, he asserts, will now either slide back into a new Dark Age or evolve into a higher, more spiritual being. Which way will we go? The author opts for evolution. While such optimism is as welcome as it is rare these days, it is largely based on mysticism and intimations of a “new planetary culture,” which Thompson shares with Philosopher Teilhard de Chardin and Science-Fiction Writer Arthur C. Clarke.

This is thin epistemological ice even for a skater as fast as Thompson. Indeed, incredulous readers may drop the book after the first reference to “our lost cosmological orientation.” …  Agree with it or not, Passagesis always fascinating, a magical mystery tour of man’s potential.




Christine Horner, doctor,author { book titles: What is God? and Awakening Leadership]


“Something miraculous is happening. The invisible is becoming visible. Human consciousness is taking a quantum leap into territory previously unknown, as what began with just a few saints, sages, gurus, and a ‘Saviour’ is awakening in the hearts and minds of millions around the globe.”“…[W]hen you awaken, you will be struck with the realization that the power that fuels and binds all of the Universe… is Creation itself. There is no separation… Until recently, only a small number of people have transcended separation consciousness to make the evolutionary leap from separation to unity consciousness where human suffering ends. …Most of humanity was still too unevolved to ‘get it’ until now.”


Charles Eisenstein, public intellectual, philosopher, ‘spiritual influencer’


My own personal choice, if one were to read only a single source for speculative ideas and philosophy regarding progressive human development in the 21st century, would be the public pronouncements of Charles Eisenstein. The evolution of human consciousness per se is not his focus. But Eisenstein is convinced, and he is persuasive on the subject, that humanity is “between stories” and that our narratives determine our minds’ comprehension of what is real.

Please, if you’ve never taken time to look at his work, visit his website and sample his writing, his podcasts, his interviews, and his video addresses. Best, in my view, read his essays and view his videos.                                                                                 – Charles Jeanes

For his videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/charleseisenstein

Eisenstein writes weekly pieces. They can be found at 



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